DANGER ZONE (PART LXXIII)
DRIVE OR FLY?
"100% GAMES" was the slogan of Tecmo in the days prior to their fusion with Koei (Example: The 2000's Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive era), but that mentality was with them much before it became a slogan.
We've already seen that on Rygar, Star Force and Strato Fighter, and this time, Hamster and Koei-Tecmo Games bring another Tecmo classic: Silkworm or like Arcade Archives calls it, Silk Worm.
Ground-based, but not out of the action.
Silkworm offers an entirely different concept of shooting as soon as you pick either Player 1 or 2. Player 1 takes control of the Jeep (B-Panther) which is the Ground-to-Air vehicle. The Jeep can adjust the cannon's aim by pressing up or down while moving the vehicle left or right by moving on the mentioned directions. You are allowed to jump in order to avoid ground hazards like the rolling mines dropped by the bosses. As a special skill you can immediately aim backwards with a button on the joystick called "Back Attack Button". Believe it or not, the player leveler had a button in the style of a jet missile button. This was common in games like After Burner, but not on a side scrolling game since it is obviously not used until Silkworm decided to use in the vehicle controls, breaking with the traditional control stick of the arcade games from back then and today. Despite its functionality, the Jeep has its disadvantages, and the most crucial of them is being unable to pick items above its jumping range, and there's gonna be times when you will be taken down before shooting to an aerial object due to the aiming. This might be a problem for those who are new in this game requiring to practice on the move, but you can have a chance of getting used to quicker if Player 2 backs you up with the Helicopter. To sum things up, the controls of the Jeep are more "Platformer-like" compared with the Helicopter.
Looks like Player 2 gets more fun than Player 1.
When you play as the Helicopter (G-Cobra), the gameplay is more shmup-like as you have a more complete mobility allowing you to take control of the air with your frontal shots and the jump button of the B-Panther becomes an Air-to-Ground vulcan. While the helicopter has a fixed full frontal vulcan, you can counter ground enemies that come from the front, but not those behind you, and that's exploited by the enemy in the later stages, making it a problem for a "solo player". Well, there's a way to deal with the 5-way missile tank in Stage 3 and that's using the back-aim button. In the Helicopter it allows you to aim downwards with your Air-to-Air Vulcan, and makes the Air-to-Ground Vulcan aim almost vertically (around 85°) giving you a great chance of taking the tank down. Its only flaw is that you don't go all the way down to almost touch the floor like in any other shmup. Instead, you're limited to the space meant for the Jeep as if there was an altitude restriction for the helicopter, and that's a weakpoint in terms of enemy evasion, especially when they move in a circular path like the small helicopters spawned by the giant helicopter in Wave 04.
At least the ground forces have more luck on crossing the obstacle.
Regardless of which vehicle you're using, there's things in common on Silkworm: To begin with, you have two different power ups: "TWIN" which grants your vehicle a twin shot increasing its strength. The second is the Turbo which is both the speed up and rapid fire for your vehicle, as the Rapid Fire, it increases the firing rate of your vehicle, being the most useful aspect of this item. Once you have both items equipped the only item you'll get from item carriers will be badges that grant you 10,000 points. You are also given a Shield, but unlike the classic Gradius/Darius force field, Silkworm introduces an unique shield mechanic which works like this: By destroying land mines, they will release a green sparkling force field. If you pick it, you'll get a temporary invincibility which you can use for a few seconds. This shield is not stackable and if you pick another one while its active, it will trigger a bomb attack destroying all the enemies on screen. There's also a "Rank System" or "Death Counter" of sorts located below the "Wave-01" indicator. Each time you take down an enemy it goes down a digit, but rather than going from the classic 9-to-0, it goes from F-E-D-C-B-A-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-0 (Example: 20-1F-1E-1D-1C, etc.).
While using an helicopter has its advantages over the Jeep, the game is not gonna do exceptions in stage hazard navigation. In Stage 5, you'll encounter a tower which requires to take down multiple floors in order to pass as the Helicopter, but to cross when the tunnel is "open" for the Jeep.
Boss battles will add a different attack pattern to their basic two shot and a homing missile volley. The Helicopter as it will drop mines that you'll have to jump if you're on the Jeep. Sometimes the boss will be backed up with enemies during the battle, and apparently the enemy backup seems to happen as long as you don't lose a life in the game kinda like a Rank System more than a presetted attack configuration.
After 11 levels, the game repeats, so basically there's no ending to the game until you're finally defeated which is inevitable.
Having a fun challenge is one thing, but there's only one downright cruel instance in this game and is after completing Wave 07: The continue option is removed from Waves 08 to 11. At this point that would mean "Game Over. Go back to Wave 01", but if you die on any of the final stages, you can continue, but with a cost: Starting back from Wave 07. Harsh, but not as insane as going back to the beginning.
While simple in gameplay despite the alternate player mechanics, there's two hidden bonuses you and your friend can get.
- DOUBLE BONUS: When the big multi-part helicopter comes (the one in 4 pieces) that gives you one bonus for each player, fire repeatedly on the second piece before it is in place. If it is destroyed before it is in place, you will be given two bonuses per player instead of one.
- STAGE 5 HIDDEN BONUS: The second one can be found at the end of level 5 : When you arrive to the final enemy, around the hand pointing up of the statue there are two hidden icons. You can fire up with the Jeep (or diagonal if you're using the Helicopter), and you will see that your shots gets stopped by something invisible. If you keep firing, finally two new icons will appear (of course you don't have to kill the final enemy). Take the icon, and you will get a bonus. Keep in mind, the bonus depends on your rank. If you have the Eagle rank you will earn 500,000 bonus points. If you don't have it, then you will earn 100,000 bonus points and the Eagle rank.
Gunship Gunfight at Arizona Desert
Silkworm got a reasonable amount of ports. Starting off with the Amstrad CPC which once again proves its uncapability of porting arcade games. While the graphics are reasonably rendered on a smaller scale, the sluggish speed and terrible controls makes it almost unplayable and like all arcade ports, you can only choose music or sound. The Sinclair ZX Spectrum is graphically minimal, but its frame rate and playability are far better than the Amstrad version but it only has sound effects and no music except for the Title screen. The Amiga version is a very faithful port of the game as the graphics are very close to the arcade, despite the smaller sprites and the lack of music. Yeah, like the Amstrad and the Spectrum the game lacks of music except for the title screen, so just grab a stereo, put some Metallica and you're all set. The Atari ST is almost identical to the Amiga port in graphic terms, since the colors and sound quality are slightly inferior, but the playability is very different. While the Amiga has a great smooth frame rate, the Atari ST version has a slow, clunky frame rate, making manuevering a bit more difficult than it should be, and finally the most common port of Silkworm is the NES version which curiously, it wasn't made by Tecmo, but by American Sammy in both development and distribution. While not as super detailed as the arcade or the Amiga, it makes a decent 8-Bit rendition of the game and goes further by adding a story line about an AI which became self-conscious and wants the world population to worship it as a god. In terms of gameplay, the NES version allows you to choose if you want to be the Jeep or the Helicopter and allows you to lock the helicopter in "Nose Down" position by pressing A. The cast of bosses was improved as well with new bosses and there's a new final boss as well. After its homeport in 1990, Silkworm was put to rest like most arcade ports, until 2024 when Hamster released it as part of the Arcade Archives lineup where we are treated with the original arcade game, same great graphics and same sound department. In this version, the default "1 Player Vehicle" is the helicopter despite being positioned as Player 2.
While the Arcade Archives port is arcade perfect at first sight, there's a minimal change on the game because there is a slight instance of censorship. ¿Where?, on Player 1's vehicle name. Since Jeep is now a trademarked name of Stellantis and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, the Arcade Archives re-release of Silkworm renamed the vehicle as "LAV" (See "Silkworm's Bookworm" below for its meaning). Even the Arcade Archives scanned instruction card censors the katakana "シープ" (Jipu) replacing the "J-Word" it with "LAV" and displays the message "This instruction card has been partially modified". It is disappointing that after deciding to keep copyrighted material on Strato Fighter (Emmerson, Lake & Palmer's "Tarkus" cover on Stage 3), Tecmo decided to revert their decision and return to their censorship ways like in Bomb Jack and Ninja Gaiden. Thus, Silkworm becames another victim of Copyright Censorship where corporate rights are prioritized over gaming preservation. Really, this issue is becoming a "we need to talk" because I don't care if you're a music band, movie studio, car manufacturer or aircraft manufacturer, this copyright drama over old games has to stop. I mean have a good look at all the censored things on Arcade Archives. This obsessive and unmeasured protection of corporate interests is damaging the premise of vintage old school arcade gaming. ¿Do you really like a re-release with censored music and other edited aspects? Of course not.
Here's a good definition of "Saturday Night Fight".
You and your helicopter against advanced bipedal machinery and lethal thanks.
With a nice graphic department we are treated with fairly good visuals in terms of both scenery and characters, but there's times where the backgrounds tend to drop the quality like in Wave 3 as they are simple colored backgrounds with a few details like the Arizona-like mountains, but Wave 10 is the worst of all as it tries to be the snow mountain like level but it is so monochrome that feels like more appropiate for an ending with flashback scenes than a stage of the game.
Modern Military is the theme of this game as your vehicles and most of your enemies are common assorted military machinery, mostly helicopters and tanks. There's few instances of enemy jets too and it goes like that until you reach the later stages where you'll be facing enemy mechas on the ground and even a supercomputer on the final stage. There's some fantasy elements along with the AI terminal, the most common is what I call the "Composite Helicopter" which 4 small helicopters gather around an energy core and merge forming a large helicopter with a neck-like cockpit which swings up and down based on the player's Helicopter position.
Looks like the enemy only had one model of giant tank and helicopter.
The cast of bosses becomes quite repetitive as you advance in your mission. Odd number levels are always assigned to the helicopter while Even numbered levels are for the ground based tank. Despite this decision, it still feels repetitive fighting the same vehicles from Wave 01 to 10.
The sound department has a somewhat repetitive theme which loops after almost half a minute: 30 seconds of low drumming and "Du-run!" in the tone of a M.A.S.H. like action show or flick of the 80's being in tone with the military theme of the game.
Want to hear something louder that fits the action of the game? Check this playlist for Silkworm.
Metallica - It's Electric
Kotipelto - Lord of Eternity
Guns N' Roses - Shackler's Revenge
Stormwarrior - Odinn's Warriors
Judas Priest - Firepower
SILKWORM'S BOOKWORM: FUN FACTS & CURIOSITIES
Picking the wrong game vehicles on the flyer.
- One of the cabinet marquees depicts the plane and drones of Taito's Scramble Formation/Tokio. It is very likely that the marquee is a bootleg.
- The Arcade Archives release is the first Arcade Perfect port of the game.
- It is also the second home port on any console and computer.
- First instance of a censored instruction card on an Arcade Archives game.
- LAV stands for both "Land Assault Vehicle" and "Light Armored Vehicle".
- Ironically, while LAV is a military term for "Armored Car", the acronym is also used on the General Dynamics Land Systems Light Armoured Vehicle, also known as "General Motors LAV".
- In the official artwork, the G-Cobra resembles the AH-64 Apache helicopter rather than the in-game original design.
- The Amiga game SWIV is considered as a spin-off of Silkworm. This is backupped on the in-game meaning of the acronym as both "Special Weapons Interdiction Vehicle" and "SilkWorm IV".
- SWIV spawned two more sequels: Firepower 2000 (Super SWIV on the European and Japanese releases), known on the Genesis as Mega SWIV and the PC game SWIV 3D.
Having one hell of a ride in an amazing arcade game.
Silkworm makes a twist on the basic premise of "Both players have identical settings" increasing the challenge factor based on which vehicle the player is using and increasing the fun factor when its played by two players simultaneously. Despite of the continue restarting after Wave 07, the game is still fun to play and worth of giving a try.
Ground based or airborne, the result is the same on the "Eda Scale".
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